Elisabeth Röhm, who played A.D.A. Serena Southerlyn for three and a half seasons, said she felt her altruistic, at times a little naïve (but still sharp) character reflected her own values. “In my heart there’s this belief that people are good, not that people who do bad things aren’t bad, but that the spirit of human beings in general—that there’s hope for us,” the actress told the Long Island Weekly in May. “I think that Serena had that idealism and I do too.”
The idealism, at least, may have been her undoing, Branch disagreeing with Southerlyn’s approach to a case and firing her. To which her memorable reply, out of nowhere, was “Is this because I’m a lesbian?” The answer was no, but it was a head-scratcher because Serena’s personal life had never come up. (It ranked 25th on TV Land’s Top 100 Most Unexpected Moments in TV History.)
Let’s just say, Röhm’s time on set (“my colleagues were Jerry Orbach and Sam Waterston, I mean, those are real actors”) sounds more enjoyable than Southerlyn’s time in the DA’s Office.
“On my last day of work, Sam Waterston wrote a speech,” recalled Röhm, whose recent work includes Jane the Virgin and Bombshell. “He said, I came into Law & Order with a ‘blow torch of happiness,’ and I have a child-like enthusiasm for life. I like to have fun. I like to treat people kindly. I want to make an impact. I want to make a difference.”
She continued, “And I think that I do have that child-like enthusiasm and idealism, and belief in humanity. I’m never surprised when people are kind because I know inside of us is all this hope and desire to evolve and to be happy. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t criminal minds, degradation, despair, poverty and violence.”